Nothing Wrong with Nepotism in Indian Film Industry – It is not a Public Office

Nepotism is only wrong when it involves public office or publicly listed companies -this too with some caveats.

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With the sudden and shocking death of Sushanth Rajput Singh, the debate on nepotism has caught fire and the consensus seems to be that the Indian film industry big wigs are sinners for promoting and providing opportunities to their kin. 

As the title suggests, I completely  disagree with the assessment that nepotism is wrong and I have concluded this based on the following arguments:

Public vs Private:

There needs to be a discretion between what is a private business and what is a public office or publicly owned company.  Most of the film business is run by individuals who use their hard-earned or inherited wealth to produce films – in effect, they are using their own money and have every right to spend it on whatever or whoever they want to. If you say this should not be the case and a more deserving actor should be promoted instead of their kin, then one can also argue a Kirana Store owner should not give away the store in inheritance but should give to the best employee who works in his store, why doesn’t  Nepotism argument apply here? but this sounds weird right – that’s only because we think of nepotism only when it involves public personalities. 

“one can also argue a Kirana Store owner should not give away the store in inheritance but should give to the best employee who works in his store”

The same applies to all private businesses-wether it is a construction company, a local bar, or a restaurant run by individuals, no one should give them away, and doing so should be considered immoral as many seem to consider for the film industry.  However, nepotism is wrong when it involves public office, As the public office is not private business. However here too, some differentiation is needed. For example, making Rajiv Gandhi the Prime Minister after the demise of Indira Gandhi is the worst kind of nepotism. Rajiv Gandhi was not even in politics, had no skin in the game, but was given the highest office in the country just based on the last name. On the other hand, an individual should not be barred from holding a public office just because he or she is a son or daughter of a MLA/CM/PM. They need to earn their way up, consider the example of  Telangana Finance minister -Harish Rao, he is the nephew of Telangana CM KCR but no one can accuse him that he is in this position of power, only because he is KCR’s nephew – he toiled hard during the Telangana agitation and has become a leader by his right. Nepotism is when an individual is destined to be the Prime minister of a country or a president of a party right at their birth as is the case with the Gandhi Family. 

Talent is Perception & Contextual

During this debate on Nepotism, there was a lot of commentary on how talented people were overlooked for industry insiders in the context of films. but who is talented and who is not varies from one individual’s perception to another, this is especially true when it comes to films because unlike an engineering or medicine admission, there can’t be set examination to filter out who is more talented or less talented when it comes to creative arts like films. 

“Nawazuddin Siddique is considered the most talented actor, but can you imagine him playing Bahubali ?”

Let’s take the craft of Acting, Acting is a visual art, so a choice of an actor depends on a lot of things like a person’s face & physicality, his background, Language, etc. Particular actors face and physicality is crucial for any director as he needs to look believable in the world the director is imagining. Even a world’s most talented actor can’t be cast in every role, for example, Nawazuddin Siddique is considered the most talented actor but can you imagine him playing Mahendra Bahubali ? for this particular role Prabhas will fit the bill most appropriately even though he may be considered less talented than Nawazuddin.

Insiders were once Outsiders

In this debate of Insiders vs Outsiders, many forget the so-called insiders like Amitabh Bachan, Dharmendra, etc were also outsiders once. Take a recent example of Anushka Sharma, she is an outsider who has made it big in the Industry, she has recently started a production company called “Clean Slate”.

The co-founder of this production company is her brother Karnesh Sharma. Now, will you consider Anushka Sharma an insider or outsider ? as she has made her brother a producer instead of giving a chance to any other talented outsider. Will you also accuse Anushka Sharma of Nepotism?

Nepotism is in Human DNA 

If we examine carefully, nepotism is in every field and every family as it is in human DNA to help create opportunities for the near and dear ones and also take their cooperation and help in managing the business you help build. The only exceptions need to be for Public Office and Public stakeholding companies.

Sarileru Neekevvaru – A low denominator entertainer

The Opening shot of Mahesh babu who plays Army Major Ajay Krishna in Sarileru Neekevvaru is that of him admiringly staring at the National Flag.This is symbolic of the superficiality and banality of this film. Of course the trailer and promotions promise exactly this, a Sankranthi commercial masala film. I don’t mind a formula film tailored to excite mahesh babu’s fans, I just wish there was more thought and bit more imagination while being fully commercial. 

The screenplay chugs along swiftly ticking off all expected tropes starting with a Action episode, comedy sequence an Interval bang etc. Major Ajay stationed in Kashmir is assigned with a mission to rescue children from terrorists. During this operation, his name sake and colleague (Satyadev)  is severely injured. Ajay (Mahesh Babu) is sent to help out the family of his injured colleague (Satyadev). Satyadev’s mother Professor Bharthi played by Vijayshanthi is an honest and upright professor who is awaiting her son’s arrival for the marriage of his sister. 

Ajay embarks on a train journey and this is an extended comedy episode involving the lead actress Rashmika Mandana, Sangeetha and other ensemble cast. The scenes here resemble the staple material in all Anil Ravipudi films, characters with a defined mannerism repeating dialogues like “Never before Ever After”. Whats disappointing here is, not only are scenes slapstick but the fact the jokes are centered around rape. In a scene during this episode, the heroine accuses the hero of raping her, so that she could force him to marry her. of course  this is all done in a light and comedic vein but in these times of Me Too, better judgement should have prevailed and such jokes about rape should have been avoided. This lack of judgement is a fall from grace for the actress Rashmika whose previous film Dear Comrade was exactly about the issue of sexual harassment. Mahesh babu who is a brand ambassador for MARD should have been much more vigilant.  The story now shifts to kurnool where professor Bharathi and her family is in deep trouble due to a dangerous and evil local politician played in his typical style by Prakash Raj. You pretty much know what follows next.

what works for the film is, the pacing. Director Anil ravipudi manages to keep it pacy and never bore the audience. How much you would like the film really depends on what your seeking for, if you enjoy familiarity and looking for Mahesh babu to show unbridled energy with full conviction, then you have this in abundance. In the rest of the cast, Vijayshanthi makes a terrific comeback. She is dignified yet compelling in her performance. Overall Sarileru Neekevvaru is a low denominator entertainer, I did not regretting seeing it nor would i regret missing it. 

33 years old – Yet to be born 

   Life so far has been good due to“Luck By Chance”.IMG_0718

I realized in my childhood it self, that being born is purely an accident and nothing that i have achieved or something to be celebrated. It is just my dumb luck, that i was born healthy, born into a financially comfortable family and more importantly born to a loving and friendly parents who provided me everything on a platter without ever asking anything. Even my marriage is another lucky accident as i mentioned to my wife Ankitha during our first meeting, these arranged marriages are like a flip of coin, it can be great or it can be disastrous. So if I look back these 33 years have been pretty easy and comfortable because of  “Luck By Chance”. There are millions of people more deserving than me who are much more talented and hardworking than me, but probably are suffering much more to get through life. I humbly recognize this fact on this day. 

“I don’t believe in Luck but I acknowledge it” – unknown. 

Hence i was always uncomfortable about all the fuss about “Happy Birthdays”. I used to show small acts of resistance by requesting my mother to not get me any gifts or buying new clothes or by wearing my school uniform to the school instead of the civil dress which used to be the norm for students celebrating their birthdays. Having said that, i used to distribute chocolates as i love eating and distributing food. 

However, i have grown to realize that i should not throw my energy into stopping my mother or family members to stop celebrating my birthdays but instead focus on creating or doing something which is worth celebrating and being proud of. The day i do something passionate with full of conviction and the day i feel inspired and a throbbing heart while doing something is when i am truly born and is my real “Happy Birthday”. As i strongly believe a man is born to find his calling and to seek his/her full potential. When one is on this path is when one feels fully alive and kicking. I have yet to find that path, until then I am yet to be BORN. 

Ram Gopal Varma was born when he started making Shiva.                                                             Jay Prakash Narayan was born when he started Lok Satta for Political Reforms.

 

 

Mathu Vadalara is a trippy cocktail of Fun and Thrill

Mathu vadalara (MV) is one more surf board coming out from the wave of new age telugu cinema.Director Ritesh Rana leading a team of debutants manages to convert an implausible idea on paper to an exciting, funny and gripping screenplay and employees all tools – cinematography, editing and background score at his command to produce a trippy cocktail of fun and thrill. 

MV belongs to the who done it genre of films, the plot of the film revolves around the cascading events that get triggered when protagonist Sri Simha who is frustrated with his job and is under financial pressure attempts a short cut to earn a quick buck but gets caught up in a Crime. 

The film dives right into the proceedings moving at a brisk pace from the word go till the end. What works is the sense of nervousness mixed with laughter the audience feel thanks to actor Satya who is the show stealer in this film. Essentialy this film is about 3 protagonists, Sri Simha, Satya and Naresh Agastya. While Satya is the Lifeline of the film, Sri Simha’s and Naresh Agasthya are decent. 

The camerawork in combination of the editing and background music create a sense of urgency and lift the film to be a pacy thriller. Although the suspense is held till the climax, once the culprit is revealed it feels a bit underwhelming, but overall the film manages to entertain you thoroughly. 

Once upon a time there was …… Bahubali – No spoilers 

BB2

*note : This is not a review but an expression of joy felt by a movie buff.

Words will fail to describe the overwhelming feeling of joy, pride and goosebumps I am experiencing after watching this epic called Bahubali. Spectacular, magnanimous, mind blowing …….. add as many adjectives as you want, nothing will encapsulate the experience I have under gone watching this magnum opus. As an ardent movie buff, especially one who has grown up feeding on Indian cinema, I just want shout thank you SS Rajamouli.

Bahubali 1 was a mere introduction to the characters and a pre-cursor to the second installment, Bahubali 2 is where the crux of the story unfolds and grips you with a drama of epic scale. It’s in this film, that the characters of Amarendra Bahubali, Bhallaladeva, Devasena, Bhijaladeva, Kattapa actually grow on us. Continuing from where it left us in BB1, BB2 introduces us to the kingdom of Devasena (Kunthala Rajyam). It’s here where the love story of Devasena and Bahubali is depicted and thsese portions of the film are nothing short of a Visual poetry. If you were awed by the stunning visuals of BB1 then hold your breath for the song Hamsa nava, it’s just out of this world. The story marches forward swiftly involving the conflicts that come to fore between all these characters.

What makes this story epic is the Blockbuster scenes that are throughout the film which gives the viewer goosebumps, thanks to the masterful music composition of MM Keeravani which enhanced these scenes. Be it the introduction scene of Bahubali or the action sequences with Devasena or the interval block, many more scenes will be etched in the movie goer’s memory for a long time.

BB2 is a rare film where the Visual spectacle, the larger than life set pieces never take away the attention from the intriguing drama and emotions of the characters. They only add to the experience. It requires first rate performances to make these characters believable and all the actors involved bring their A game into this film. The VFX shots are of a superior quality than BB1 and needless to say all the technical aspects involved are truly word class.

As I walked out of the theater BB2 filled me with a sense of pride, a feeling of high that a telugu film, an Indian film has been made which can be proudly presented at an international stage. Hats off to SS Rajamouli for his courage to dream and perseverance to make it come alive. Generations to come will discuss the legend of Bahubali. Indian Cinema will be Before Bahubali and After Bahubali. Once upon a time ……..there was Bahubali.

Modi’s Biggest Blunder?

yogi

Modi’s Biggest Blunder? – Is appointment of Yogi Adityanath betrayal of Modi’s mandate?

The keenly awaited news of who will be the next CM of UP is finally out. As usual most of the news channels with their highly placed sources got this prediction wrong too. No one really expected BJP will declare Yogi Adityanath as the CM of UP. While this may be good news for the core supporters of BJP (Read VHP and RSS members), this is a disappointment for lakhs of youngsters like me who supported Modi purely for the promise of development.

Although we should not prejudge a candidate before he even has taken oath, we can always raise doubts about his or her qualification to be a CM of the largest state of India. Yogi Adityanath may have won as member of Parliament 5 times in a row but his rhetoric against Muslims is highly objectionable. The significant rise of BJP/Modi pan India is because he was able to garner votes from people beyond BJP’s core base. For these people, Ram Mandir and Hindutva is not an issue, their expectation from Modi was he would deliver on economy, infrastructure, good governance and curbing corruption. Appointment of Yogi Adityanath signals a betrayal of this expectation.

One may argue that may be Yogi Adityanath will tone down his rhetoric and completely focus on governance issues. But for a leader who has cultivated his support base around communal rants against Muslims it will be difficult to suddenly abandon it. He is after all answerable to this very support base.

He may personally want to tone it down as he has won the biggest prize of the CM’s post but his supporters will not remain silent and he will not be able to reign them in.

I hope all my doubts and suspicions will turn out false. I will be happy if he proves all skeptics wrong. However, if he continues with the communal agenda then the blame must squarely be placed on Narendra Modi. It may turn out to be the biggest blunder by Modi, as he will risk losing lakhs of supporters including myself who have supported him strictly for development and development only.

Formula is no Formula

Formula is no Formula  – Changing phase of Telugu cinema

With the success of Ghazi, the first submarine war film to be made in India, it is clear that Telugu cinema is reinventing itself, exploring new genre’s and story lines that have been shunned so far as they were thought to be not commercially viable. Some may think that the daring attempt of Ghazi may be a one off but if you look at the kind of films that have been extremely successful in the last 2 years or so, one would realize this is truly the beginning of Telugu cinema’s golden age in terms of path breaking content, audience who are willing to see different stories helmed by non-stars and new filmmakers with fresh ideas.

To understand as to how I reached to the conclusion I have described above let’s take a look at the kind of films that were successful in the last 2 years. Let’s look at the films released in 2016 first. In 2016 the number straight Telugu films that were released were approximately 108.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Telugu_films_of_2016

Out of these the total numbers films which were commercial hits were approximately 17.

So, the success ratio of Telugu films in 2016 is ~ 15 %. Out of these 17 hits, at least more than half of them are not regular formula films. A formula film is one which tries to stitch a story with all types of so called commercial elements such as comedy, action, hero entry, interval bang and 6 songs etc. So, for example film like Kshanam is not a formula film as it only sticks to its genre of suspense. This is a genre film. Whereas a film like Sarainodu is a formula film. In 2016 the films like Kshanam, Oopiri, Pelli chupulu etc have all been path breaking in terms of stories or storytelling and managed great box office collections.

In order to understand this further in terms of hard data, I have divided all the  hit films of 2016  and 2015 into 3 categories: Path breaking films (very different films), Slightly different (subject matters were different but did not go all the way) and Routine commercial films.

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Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 8.17.59 PM.pngIf you look at the tables above, you can see that 7 out of the 17 hit films in 2016 and 9 out of the 15 hit films in 2015 have been path breaking and new style cinema. This success rate of different cinema is even higher in 2015, please look at the 2015 table.

This trend has strongly continued in 2017 with films like Ghazi, GPS and Shatamanam Bhavati declared huge success, it is clear that Telugu cinema has entered a new phase where it is dealing with films of diverse subject matters be it a Folklore Fantasy drama like Bahubali, historical period movie like Kanche or a philosophical Yevade Subramanyam. The writing on the wall for Telugu filmmakers is formula is no formula.

 

Ghazi – This film will fill you with pride

 

Ghazi – This movie will fill you with pride about Indian Navy and Telugu Film Industry, hats off to the makers, especially director Sankalp who manages to put out a world class film, the detailing, Jargon and CG of the submarine are very believable and convincing. The film keeps you completely engaged with the two sides Indian Navy and Pakistan Navy trying to check mate each other and never deviates from the plot trying to include some so called commercial elements. The best part of the film is that even the Characters of Pakistan Navy are portrayed as thinking and capable men, not caricatures. The drama is built into the plot through the inherent conflicting characters of Rana and Kay Kay Menon. Rana is a stickler of the rules whereas Kay Kay Menon is a rebel who is determined to eliminate the enemy even without the orders from the political bosses. Atul Kulkarni does the balancing act between the two men. Kudos to Rana for not only accepting this film but also for sportingly playing the second fiddle in some of his scenes with Kay Kay Menon. Although all actors did a great job, the stand out performance has to be of Kay Kay Menon whose sharp eyes and stern looks convey more than any punch dialogues can ever. There are many moments in this film where you will be on the edge of the seat and the climax will give you goosebumps and fill you with Pride of watching Telugu/ Indian cinema reinventing itself. It will also remind you of the unsung heroes of Indian Navy. This weekend do yourself a favor and go watch Indian Cinema’s first ever under water submarine war film.

 

H1B Visa Rules- Truth vs Hype

In the last week or so, there has been immense speculation and uninformed discussion on the changes supposedly being made to H1B visa rules. Most of the news which is circulating in News channels and buzzing on WhatsApp groups are all blown out of proportion.

There are mainly 3 news headlines, one is with regards to the 130K pay hike, an Executive order by trump clamping down on H1 visas, and about H4 EAD being cancelled, All these 3 have been mixed up, where as all of them are separate unrelated news to each other. Let’s first Segregate these things.

1)130K pay Hike: There is a lot of talk about how the minimum pay will be hiked to 130K for all H1b visa holders there by making it very difficult for a company to sponsor H1b visa to a new graduate or how existing H1b visa holders who have lesser pay may also be in trouble.

Truth About 130K pay hike: First things first, this 130K pay hike, is not a Executive order from President Trump but is just a bill proposed by a Democratic Congress woman Lofgren Zoe who represents 19th district of California. The main highlight of this bill is that it proposes a minimum pay of 130K for H1B dependent employers. Please read it again, the Pay hike is for employees of H1B dependent employers only, it does not apply to all H1B visa holders.

Who are H1 Dependent Employers ?:  A H1B dependent employer is one who has more than 15 % of the workforce on H1b visas. So, most of the American companies will not come under this category, The only ones who might come under this category will be Indian MNC’s who are outsourcing H1b employees from India.

Here is a snapshot from the summary of the bill which mentions this clause:

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Status of the Bill: Currently this bill is proposed by a democratic congresswoman and as democratic party is in opposition and in minority in congress the likelihood  of this bill being passed is highly unlikely.

here is the link to the bill : https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/670/text

and here is the summary of the bill :

 https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/670/text

2) Trump’s Executive order (Leaked):  There is also this news making rounds on trump clamping down on H1B visas, this probably is coming from the leaked Executive order (EO) obtained by Vox, Again this is executive order document is leaked and not yet officially  announced and no one knows if at all this will see the day of light ever. Please note that the the above Pay hike to 130K is unrelated to this leaked document and there is no such mention of pay hike in this.

What does this leaked EO say ? This leaked EO is very general in nature and does not mention any specifics, it talks about how to improve the Immigration visa process to suit the national interest of the US and does not mention of reducing any H1b visa numbers, nor any changes to Lottery system. All it says about H1 visa is to identify a system to improve the allocation without any specifics. There is no talk of H4 EAD at all.

It orders a special investigation by Secretary of Labor to understand the extent of injury to US workers due to employment of nonimmigrant visa holders such as H-1, L-1 and B-1.

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Here is the link to the news published by Vox about this leaked EO:

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/25/14390106/leaked-drafts-trump-immigrants-executive-order

Status of the EO: No one actually know’s if this EO will ever come out, and how authentic this leak actually is.

3) H-4 EAD removal: 

There has been news also about the H4 EAD being revoked, this probably is stemming from the following news story: A group named “Save jobs USA” has filed a case in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on January 11 2017 to revoke the H4 EAD.

They claim that the H4 EAD is creating job losses to the members of Save jobs USA and there is no protection for them. This is the second time this group is filing this case, the first time it filed was in 2015 and the court struck down their appeal in that case.

Now in response to the new case filed, the trump administration has requested the courts a time of 60 days in order to submit their brief in response the petition filed by “Save jobs USA”. Some news that the Trump administration has passed a motion to revoke H4 EAD is completely untrue.

Here is the link which gives more details on this: http://immigrationgirl.com/the-real-story-of-trumps-court-filing-in-the-h-4-ead-litigation/

No need to panic:

As of now, none of these have been passed nor anything ordered, So no one needs to worry or panic.